First published: 30.8.2008
Palestinian armed factions captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on 25 June 2006. Today, more than two years later, his condition is still unclear. The ICRC has made repeated but unsuccessful requests to visit him or be allowed to pass on family news. ICRC delegates recently met Gilad’s parents Noam and Aviva to talk about their thoughts and emotions.
What has your life been like for the past two years?
Noam Shalit: We are still at square one and so is Gilad. Of course it’s extremely hard for us but it’s Gilad who’s in captivity and suffering this ordeal directly, not us.
Aviva Shalit: Two years ago, when Gilad was captured, we really didn’t know what to think or expect. After all, it’s not as if we had past experience or could prepare for such a thing. For me, the prevailing emotion is frustration stemming from uncertainty about Gilad’s physical and emotional condition.
How do you handle the fact that after two years there is still no progress?
Noam Shalit: The determination to free Gilad, to bring him home, is what motivates and strengthens us.
Aviva Shalit: You find an inner strength that you didn’t even know you had. This is what helps us to function and stay focused. We can’t afford not to.
What do you think about at night?
Noam Shalit: It’s very hard to fall asleep or not to wake up once I have. I keep thinking about Gilad, what is he going through, how long will this continue, what else can we do that we haven’t done already?
What did you expect of the ICRC?
Noam Shalit: I am disappointed that the ICRC is unable to impose its humanitarian agenda on a Palestinian organization and compel it to comply with the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. We would like the ICRC to be more assertive, more active and more persuasive. After all, Hamas often relies on the ICRC for humanitarian matters so we were expecting that, similarly, the ICRC would succeed in getting what it needs and wants from Hamas. The problem is that consent and cooperation are essential for the ICRC and when both are lacking, there is not much it can do.
Aviva Shalit: It’s extremely frustrating that there are no results after two years, but the ICRC must continue trying and not give up. Even if it can only achieve one millimetre of progress, it’s still worth it.
Finally, do you still have hope?
Noam Shalit: To be honest, there is currently no light at the end of the tunnel. There is simply nothing that can give us hope, but we will go on looking for something that will.
Aviva Shalit: We mustn’t lose hope that Gilad will return soon. My worry is that while I knew my son when he last left this house, I don’t know if I will know him when he comes back. This is a young boy – who knows how this experience has scarred him.